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What is Gerontology?
Gerontology is an exciting field of study that focuses on the study of aging through an interdisciplinary lens of culture, social, cognition, psychology, economics, and biology. The gerontology field is different from the geriatrics field which specializes in disease treatment in older adults. The gerontology field emphasizes the following core aspects:
- Understanding social (sociogerontology), mental, and physical aspects of aging
- Learning more about the biological aging process (biogerontology)
- Discovering the psychological impact on aging (psychogerontology)
- Researching the effects of aging on a society (demography)
- Investigating link between aging and age-based diseases (geroscience)
- Understanding the interplay between aging and environment (environmental gerontology)
- Synthesizing gerontology to help public and private entities make informed decisions to support an aging population
Three Domains of Aging
One of the seminal moments in the field of gerontology was approximately sixty years ago when professionals began organizing the field of study into discrete categories. As the former president of the Gerontological Society of America, J.E. Birren stratified aging into three primary domains. They include the following classifications:
- Primary - Primary aging is the natural, physical deterioration of the human body through the passage of time
- Secondary - Secondary again is the adverse effects disease and illness can have on the body as a person ages
- Tertiary - Tertiary aging represents the rapid deterioration of a person's physical and cognitive state as they approach the end of their life
How to Become a Gerontologist
In order to become a gerontologist, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree in the field or adjacent field of study such as nursing, social work, biology, and/or psychology. An adjacent bachelor's degree is often a sufficient starting point for a graduate to start in the field in an entry-level position such as care centers and hospice organizations.
Some colleges provide the opportunity for students to earn a graduate degree in the field, which provides the opportunity to begin a career in a more advanced role such as research or managing.
Educational Requirements for Gerontologists
In terms of educational requirements, Gerontology degree holders will have typically studied a series of science-rich courses in school. While each program differs from the other, there are core classes that then to overlap. The following courses are typical to study while in college pursuing a gerontology degree.
Employment in Gerontology
For students that earn a college degree in Gerontology, there are several fields of specialization that one can pursue. The options range from university professor, research analyst, genomics, virologist, immunologist, toxicologist, biological technician, biomedical engineer, food scientist, microbiologist, medical scientist, nutritional scientist, and epidemiologist.
Job Growth & Gerontologist Career Outlook
Data aggregated from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the job growth for gerontologists are well above average. In fact, the employment bump is expected to top 14% which will add 12,100 new jobs to our economy. Similarly, geneticists and biomedical engineers are forecast to see a 9% increase and 23% jump in jobs during this time. Combining these three jobs into a single data point, we will see nearly 18,000 new jobs in the coming ten year stretch.
Additional Resources for Gerontologists
For current and prospective gerontologists, we recommend the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the American Aging Association (AAA). Both organizations have great resources, networking opportunities, research, and insights for individuals in the field of gerontology.